Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Toad

"Sweet are the uses of adversity,
 Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
 Wears yet a precious jewel in his head..."

 Shakespeare, As You Like It


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scenes from a Dye Class: Madder and Cochineal

Linen scarf, ombre-dyed with madder and cochineal

Today at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center in East Rochester, NY, four fiber enthusiasts and I spent several hours playing with madder and cochineal, seeing what reds we could achieve with these two ancient dyes.

We had some surprising results! Using cochineal bugs purchased online from Wild Colours in the United Kingdom -- and following their directions -- our fibers came out in vivid purples and lavenders! I bought a 100 gram bag of bugs (sounds nice, doesn't it?), ground them up in my coffee grinder, doused them with boiling water and soaked them overnight, strained them in the morning, and divided up the dye solution between two dye pots. So I used about 50 grams of ground cochineal for maybe 300 to 400 grams of fiber. Here are some results.

Wool yarn on left, cotton on right

In my experience, cochineal produces magenta, rose, and salmon-red colors. How did this happen? Our water is hard -- perhaps that changed the chemistry. I used a high concentration of dye powder, which might have had some effect. Does anyone out there know how we got purple from cochineal, using nothing but alum mordant?

More results below, from both cochineal and madder, with an alum mordant. By the way, I had to increase the intensity of the madder dye, because our results at 10% WOG were lackadaisical. I upped it to 20% WOG (that's dyeing jargon for a ratio of 20 to 100, weight of dye to weight of fiber).

Wool roving dyed in madder, alum mordant

Skeins on drying rack: madder on left, cochineal on right

Different fibers, same vat, different results: Tencel on left, silk on right

Many thanks to Barbara Clements, Eleanor Hartquist, Joyce Leary, and Gretchen Wheelock for a wonderful afternoon!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Indigo-Dyed Tablecloth with Japanese Kanji Saying 'Nourish Body & Soul'

Having a meal with good friends and family, we do nourish both body and soul. That's the message on this indigo-dyed cotton tablecloth, using Japanese kanji -- symbols -- for the words "nourish," "body," and "soul." I created stencils with images from the internet, cutting them out of freezer paper and ironing them in the center (well, off-center) of this cotton twill tablecloth. Using three colors of Shiva oil-based paint sticks -- iridescent blue, copper, and gold -- I dusted the stencils with color and left them to dry.

The fabric was dipped three times in an indigo vat to achieve a true sky blue, as only indigo can do. I'm hoping to sell this on Etsy but, if not, it will definitely work on my patio table. Sitting outside and enjoying dinner on a summer's evening is one of my husband's favorite things to do. We have a garden with lots of Japanese plants and accents. So many of us admire the Japanese way of doing things, myself included. This tablecloth is my "homage"!

What's on the Loom?

More accurately, what's going on the loom? At this writing, I'm in the process of winding on a painted warp for a Jin design on 28 ...